As I looked at the itinerary, panic slowly started to creep in. Not only were we going to an onsen once, but twice. I had looked up what to expect in an onsen and knew I was going to have to get completely naked in front of anyone else that happened to be there at the time. You go to a room and disrobe, then using only a “modesty towel” to cover up (which is approximately the size of a hand towel) you go to bathing station to wash.
All of you must be washed before entering the onsen. The onsen is basically a large pool filled with warm water from a hot spring. After washing, you enter the pool. Neither the towel nor your hair is supposed to touch the water. Women and men have separate facilities. As a group, we decided to only look at each other from the chin up to help with nerves. After the first initial panic, we realized what the Japanese have known all along; it is one of the most relaxing and empowering things I have ever done. My group knew my fears and tried to help allay them, and they were right (Thanks guys!). Not only did I go that night, I went again the next morning.
At the Hotel Honnōji, there was an onsen as well. We went again!
The last onsen experience was by far the best. We went to Ikoi No Yu, which is a Japanese spa. We had so many choices for soaking. Ones with minerals added for aching joints and muscles (which we needed), ones with jets, ones to lie down with jets, outside ones, and ones to lie down in outside. There was also an extremely hot one and a cold one.
As Westerners, we have a tendency to be so concerned with our bodies and how others view them. It was refreshing to see such a different attitude and really helped us all. Of course, we still kept to the rule of no looking below the chin☺